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Roman einer jungen Ehe (Story of a Young Couple)

1952, East Germany (DEFA), b/w, 99 min.  English subtitles
Dir.: Kurt Maetzig
Script: Udo Uhse, Kurt Maetzig
Camera: Karl Plintzner
Editing: Lena Neumann
Music: Wilhelm Neef
Cast: Yvonne Merin, Hans-Peter Thielen, Willy A. Kleinau, Hilde Sessak, Harry Hindemith, Martin Hellberg
VHS-NTSC, English subtitles:

Synopsis:

A young married couple - both of them actors - work in the divided city of Berlin. Agnes is on location in East Berlin, and Jochen, her husband, works at the Westend Theater in West Berlin. This marriage is in danger of breaking up as they vehemently defend their diametrically opposed views on politics, art, and the responsibility of the individual to society. Agnes, for example, is proud of the film she is appearing in, but Jochen forcefully rejects the film as propaganda (a criticism aimed at Story of a Young Couple as well). They split up. Agnes moves to East Berlin, volunteers to support the efforts of building socialism, and they file for divorce. When the two see each other again in court, however, they resolve their differences in Hollywood fashion.

Filmed early in the Cold War, The Story of a Young Couple describes the cultural and political situation in Berlin between 1946 and 1950. Numerous authentic figures of German culture and politics were portrayed, such as the film director Veit Harlan, known for the notorious Nazi propaganda film Jud Süß, and a famous West Berlin theater director Boleslaw Barlog. Memorable in this film is the documentary footage of the construction of Stalin Allee, the biggest street built in East Berlin after the Second World War. This film is a shining example of how East German culture conformed to Stalinist politics.

"The film makes us sit up and take notice - and we are pleased to see a film with such sound, humane groundwork. At last, a film which attempts to derive its political and educational effect in a legitimate, original artistic manner and from character development, the personal conflicts and decisions taken by the characters." Berliner Zeitung Jan 22, 1952

About the Director:

Kurt Maetzig was born in Berlin-Charlottenburg on January 25, 1911. His father owned a publishing house and his mother came from a wealthy family of tea merchants from Hamburg and Denmark. Maetzig lived in Hamburg-Harvestehude with his grandmother during the First World War. After completing secondary school, he studied chemistry, business administration, and political economics in Munich. He also attended lectures at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1932 he began to do volunteer work with filmmakers. Maetzig completed his studies in Munich in 1935 with a degree in business and then worked for his father. In 1937 he was denied work by the Reichsfilmkammer because his mother, who had committed suicide after the Nuremberg Laws were issued, was Jewish. Maetzig worked as a specialist in film technology and photochemistry for a number of Berlin firms and eventually ran his own laboratory for photochemistry.

In 1944 Maetzig joined the underground German Communist Party; he was one of the members of the "Filmaktiv" involved in the founding of DEFA. He worked as a director, author, and speaker, and became DEFA’s artistic director in 1946.

Maetzig was a member of the Academy of Arts of the GDR and became the first president of the newly founded Film Academy in Potsdam-Babelsberg, where he was professor of film directing. In 1974 he became vice president of the international organization FICC; he became lifetime honorary president in 1979. From 1980 to 1986 he was the four-time president of the National Feature Film Festival of the GDR.

Major Films: 

Ehe im Schatten (1947), Die Buntkarierten (1948/49), Rat der Götter (1949/50), Roman einer jungen Ehe (1951/52), Ernst Thälmann—Sohn seiner Klasse (1954), Ernst Thälmann – Führer seiner Klasse (1955), Das Lied der Matrosen (1958), Das Kaninchen bin ich (1964/65), Mann gegen Mann (1975).

Related reading:

Brady, Martin. "Discussion with Kurt Maetzig." DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946-1992. Seán Allan and John Sandford, eds. New York: Berghahn, 1999. 77-92.

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Jessica Hale